This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise - We Are The Mighty
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This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.


The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Medal of Honor recipient and community activist John Baca got the attention of former Marine and MOH recipient Dakota Meyer for his work with the community in San Diego. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.

On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”

The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.

“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.

Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Baca’s need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.

The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.

Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.

“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.

Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.

Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”

Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.

“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”

When Baca checked out the truck,  the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”

Veterans

A Cold War Marine shows the impact of building a community of veterans

Tempe, Arizona boasts a unique housing complex for mixed income families. Called “Valor on 8th,” its 50 units were specially designed as a place for U.S. military veterans and their families to live in affordable housing in one of America’s fastest-growing urban areas.  

One alumnus of Valor on 8th is Ro Gonzalez. A Marine Corps veteran, he appreciated what the city did for veterans. He spent a lot of time working for a veteran-oriented non-profit before striking out on his own. Gonzalez founded the Valors Veterans Community AZ in 2018, and has since helped 6,000 Arizona veterans.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Arizona, it hit veterans and their families in the Phoenix area hard and Gonzalez had trouble meeting the needs of his community. When he applied for an Evan Williams COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant, Valor on 8th was ready to help. 

“Our motto is connecting veterans with veterans and resources,” Gonzalez told We Are The Mighty. “That’s what we do, we connect veterans with other veterans through a lot of social events, but we also help with education, employment, homelessness and veteran transition all over Arizona.”

Gonzalez is an old-school Marine who served during the Cold War, from 1987 to 1991. His priority, in his own words, is taking care of his veteran brothers and sisters. And because he and Valors Veterans Community AZ is mostly self-funded through his day job and his morning paper route, he’s limited in what he can do.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have help at all. The people of Valor on 8th just volunteer their time and effort.

“Nobody is on payroll,” Gonzalez says. “All our funds come from in-kind donations, my credit card, wherever we can get dollars from. A hundred percent of it goes right back to the veterans.”

Through his hard work and the work of his volunteers, he’s been able to expand his operation, starting a new chapter in Tucson and looking to hire a veterans benefits navigator. His local focus and small donations make it possible for Valors Veterans Community AZ to be more responsive to the needs of veterans in Arizona. 

“We’re more grassroots, more local, one-on-one, more personable,” he says. “It isn’t just about clicks and donations, our thing is to get our veterans involved in the community. If we help them out, they don’t have to pay us back monetarily. We prefer for you to come out and volunteer with us so you can see the impact volunteering in the community has.” 

With the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the hardest-hit areas of Arizona was the veteran community in the Navajo Nation. Gonzalez and his organizations used the Evan Williams’ COVID-19 Veteran Relief Grant to come to their aid.

“They were hit hard by COVID, because they have such a large elderly population,” he says. “We hooked them up with gallons of sanitizers, along with other PPE, diapers, laundry soap, food, water, you name it. Altogether, we donated more than $10,000 worth of items.” 

Veteran service organizations like Valor on 8th are supported by these grants through the American-Made Heroes Foundation Fund, established by Evan Williams in 2020. As an American-made and owned company, it’s important for Evan Williams Bourbon to give back to those who serve.

Evan Williams

Ro Gonzalez and Valors Veterans Community AZ wants every veteran and every veteran family member to reach out when they need help. Gonzalez acknowledges his own problems as a veteran (he suffered a traumatic brain injury during service), but says that he does what he has to do to take care of it, just like any other problem.

“The number one thing is, if you’re struggling, there’s no shame in asking for help,” he says. “Every once in a while, no matter what you’re going through, you just need a little guidance. We’re happy to help.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy sailors step up to help deliver meals to senior citizens

Two sailors partnered with Meals On Wheels (MOW) Mesa County to deliver meals to local clients in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area during Western Slope Navy Week, July 23, 2019.

The mission of MOW is to promote the independence, health, and well being of the elderly through quality nutritional services. This is the first time Navy Outreach has partnered with the organization during a Navy Week.

“We were really glad to have the sailors here to help us, and a lot of the clients were looking forward to the interactions,” said Amanda Debock, program manager. “We gave them a route that had a large amount of veterans and they were especially excited to have their meals delivered by active duty sailors.”


MOW Mesa County provides affordable lunchtime meals to seniors age 60 and older in Mesa County. Today, the program prepares and serves more than 120,000 meals annually and 500 or more per day.

Lt. Jacob Cook and Navy Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Giovanni Dagostino, both assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, rode along with volunteer Steve Kendrick to deliver lunch to 19 clients.

“I have never volunteered with Meals on Wheels myself,” said Cook. “This experience has been really great just to go out and see what they do as an organization and to meet the people in this community that they serve and take care of.”

Seven clients included in the route were Navy, Army or Air Force Veterans that served during Word War II, the war in Vietnam and throughout various other periods.

“I was surprised how excited some of the veterans were when we showed up at the door,” said Kendrick. “We had one vet that was almost in tears when he saw the sailors come to the door in uniform. A lot of them just acted like [the sailors] were just part of their family. It seemed like it was a very special event for everyone.”

Started in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens, Meals on Wheels Mesa County has been serving nutritious meals to seniors for 49 years.

The Navy Week program brings sailors, equipment, and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand the Navy the nation needs.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

This Marine Corps vet’s swift actions saved lives during the Orlando shooting

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
(Photo: Imran Yousuf)


Marine Corps veteran Imran Yousuf was working as a bouncer at Pulse nightclub in Orlando when he heard a rapid-fire series of gunshots crack across the venue.

“You could just tell it was a high caliber,” Yousuf told CBS. He saw the patrons were frozen in fear and that no one was moving to open a nearby door.

“There was only one choice — either we all stay there and we all die, or I could take the chance,” Yousuf said, “and I jumped over to open that latch and we got everyone that we can out of there.”

Orlando law enforcement officials credit Yousuf with saving about 70 lives with his unflinching action. “I wish I could’ve saved more,” he told CBS. “There’s a lot of people that are dead.”

Yousuf’s six-year stint as an electrical systems tech included a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 according to records. His last command was the 3rd Marine Logistics Group in Okinawa, Japan. He left active duty at the rank of sergeant.

Yousuf posted the following message on his Facebook page:

There are a lot of people naming me a hero and as a former Marine and Afghan veteran. I honestly believe I reacted by instinct. I have lost a few of my friends that night which I am just finding out about right now and while it might seem that my actions are heroic I decided that the others around me needed to be saved as well and so I just reacted.

We need to show our love and profound efforts to the families and friends who have lost someone and help them cope with what happened and turn our efforts to those who truly need it. Once again I sincerely thank everyone and bless all those who are recovering and trying to make sense of it all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

IS claims 3 attacks in Russia’s Chechnya by teenagers, children

Russian investigators say they have launched investigations into three separate attacks that wounded several police officers in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 20, 2018 assaults in an announcement by its Amaq news agency, without providing details or evidence to back up its statement.


The Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rejected the IS claim, alleging that the militant group had “no support, no social basis” in the North Caucasus republic.

At most, the IS group might have influenced young people on social media, Kadyrov said in a post on Telegram.

Chechen Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov told the TASS news agency that the youngest attacker was 11 and the oldest 17.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said that in one of the Aug. 20, 2018 attacks, two attackers entered the district police department in the town of Shali and wounded two officers with knives.

The two assailants were shot dead, according to Chechnya’s Interior Ministry.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

“The main purpose today is to create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov said.

(North Caucasus Service RFE/RL)

In the village of Mesker-Yurt, north of Shali, a young person carrying a rucksack blew himself up at a police post, investigators said, adding that “officers and civilians were not harmed by the blast.”

Reports earlier said the attacker had survived.

And in the regional capital, Grozny, police opened fire on a vehicle that had hit two policemen. Investigators said the driver was killed.

Authorities reportedly identified the driver as 17-year-old Ali Akhmatkhanov — a younger brother of Khizir Akhmatkhanov, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his involvement in a terrorist attack in the Chechen city of Gudermes in 2001.

The other person in the car was 11 years old, Umarov told TASS.

Kadyrov, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, claimed that the assaults’ main purpose was to “create an illusion that there are some forces capable of organizing armed actions and terrorist attacks” within Chechnya.

The Chechen leader also dismissed the attacks as an attempt to disrupt the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, saying, “The task was to darken this holiday, to cause a broad public response, and to prevent residents of Chechnya from celebrating Eid al-Adha.”

Islamic militants in the region have mounted frequent attacks on police, moderate Muslims, and officials, and some have sworn allegiance to IS.

Russia estimates some 2,000 citizens, mostly from the North Caucasus, have fought alongside IS in Syria.

Organized crime, business turf wars, political disputes, and clan rivalry also contribute to the bloodshed in the region.

Critics say Russian authorities and Kadyrov’s government sometimes use allegations of militancy as a pretext to crack down on opponents.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

OMG! This Admiral wrote like a texting teen

Okay, maybe not entirely. But the first written use of the acronym “OMG” — meaning Oh My God, for those not hip with the kids’ lingo — came from an admiral in the Royal Navy.


This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

In 1917, Lord John Fisher, who resigned his commission in 1915 over Churchill’s Gallipoli Campaign during the First World War, wrote to Churchill who was then Minister of Munitions about his concerns regarding the Navy’s ability to conduct a major campaign to keep the Germans from flanking the Russians via the Baltic Sea.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Hat Tip, Time Magazine

Also, a tapis was a kind of tablecloth, and the phrase on the tapis meant the idea was under consideration. As for Shower it on the Admiralty, I think we can all figure out what that means.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

When you think about it, it makes sense an acronym would come from the military, because no one produces TLAs like the armed forces.

NOW: 5 Craziest ideas the British had for battling German subs

OR: 13 tips for dating on a U.S. Navy ship

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Chinese military’s new propaganda video is epic

China’s People’s Liberation Army released a chilling video last week called “I am a Chinese Soldier,” which was first spotted in the West by the National Interest.

The 2:20 minute video, released on August 1 for China’s Army Day, emotionally underscores the sacrifices made by service members of the PLA while showing off some of the country’s latest weaponry.

At one point in the propaganda video, the narrator says “peace behind me, war in front of me,” which The National Interest said could be interpreted to mean war is “inevitable.”


The National Interest, which provided a translation of the narration, also pointed out that no female soldiers were depicted in the video — just mothers and wives sending their husbands or sons off.

Check out the video:

The high-quality video also likely instilled a lot of pride, something which Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, recently told Business Insider is at least in part China’s reason for building a fleet of new aircraft carriers that may soon be on par with the US’ Nimitz-class carriers.

But China’s grand ambitions for a world-class military likely goes beyond pride and domestic politics, as Beijing continues to set its sights on the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, market access overseas, and more.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

7 crazy things the Coast Guard did during World War II

The Coast Guard doesn’t always get a lot of respect, but the fact remains that the service and its predecessors have fought in every American war since the Revolution, they deploy to locations around the world, and were absolute slayers in World War II. For the naysayers out there, here are just seven of the awesome things puddle pirates did in the greatest generation:


This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

The USCGC Northland in World War II.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard conducted the first U.S. raid of WWII

On Sep. 12, 1941, nearly three months before the Pearl Harbor attack, the crew of Coast Guard cutter Northland conducted the first U.S. raid of the war. The cutter was operating under a defensive treaty with Greenland and moved to investigate a tip that a suspicious landing party was operating in a nearby fjord. They investigated and found the SS Buskoe.

While interrogating the ship master, they found signs that the ship was acting as a relay for Nazi radio stations. The Coast Guardsmen went after the landing party and raided an onshore radio station, capturing three Norwegians and German communications equipment, code words, and military instructions. Members of the ship and radio station crew were arrested.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

Coast Guard led the operating, maintaining, and salvaging of landing craft

The Coast Guard’s war started in the Pacific, but they were quickly employed in the Atlantic overseas as American deployed to Africa, the Mediterranean, and Europe. In all of these deployed locations, the Coast Guard was tasked with providing many of the crews for landing crafts, and it was Coast Guardsmen who were landing troops under fire everywhere from Guadalcanal to Normandy.

This was a natural evolution for the service, which had greatly increased its shallow water capabilities during Prohibition in America, learning to land teams and send them against bootleggers, possibly under fire. This led to the only Medal of Honor earned in Coast Guard history as Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro gave his life while saving Marines under machine gun fire at Guadalcanal.

At Papa New Guinea, Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Richard Snyder was landing supplies when he and his unit came under Japanese fire. He grabbed weapons and hand grenades from the supplies cache and rushed the caves from which the fire originated. The grenades went in first, followed quickly by Snyder himself. He slaughtered four Japanese fighters and re-secured the beach, which earned him a Silver Star.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

The Coast Guard Cutter 16, the “Homing Pigeon,” crew celebrates their D-Day success pulling 126 drowning men from the waters off the Normandy coast on June 6, 1941.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The Coast Guard scooped 400 men out of the water on D-Day

Part of that landing craft mission was landing troops at D-Day, but, given the sheer size of the operation, the Navy and Army asked that the Coast Guard also provide a flotilla of ships to rescue Americans stranded in the water. The puddle pirates quickly rose to the challenge, pulling from their experience saving mariners for over a century.

The “Matchbox Fleet,” a flotilla of small cutters and other craft, went to war on D-Day right behind the first wave of landing craft. They had been told to stay two miles out, but most boats moved closer to shore where they could rescue more men. Overall, the service pulled over 400 men out of the water. A single boat, the “Homing Pigeon,” rescued 126.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

The USS Callaway, crewed by Coast Guardsmen, in World War II.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

Coast Guardsmen defended the fleet during the Philippines landings

Similarly, the Coast Guard provided landing support and lifesaving services during the amphibious landings to retake the Philippines. Many of the supply ships and landing craft piloted by the Coast Guard came under attack, making many of their personnel de facto guardians of the fleet.

And Coast Guardsmen distinguished themselves during this defense. In one, the men were defending their portions of the fleet from attack when three kamikaze pilots made their final approach at the supply ship USS Callaway. The Coast Guard crew were rattling off all their rounds in defense, but the gunners started to melt away when it became clear that at least one plane was going to make impact.

At least seven stayed in position, downing two of the planes but suffering the impact of the third and dying instantly. But the ship survived the fight, and the landings were successful.

The Coast Guard manned floating weather stations under fire in the Atlantic

The U.S. advantage in the Battle of the Atlantic sometimes came down to weather reports. D-Day was partially successful because the U.S. knew about a break in the storms that wasn’t obvious to the Nazis. But manning weather stations, especially ones at sea, was risky in the wartime environment.

The Coast Guard sent relatively old and under-armed ships to the weather monitoring missions where they would stay in one spot and collect data, making them highly susceptible to attack. In September 1942, the USCGC Muckeget suddenly disappeared in what was later found to be a torpedo attack, claiming the lives of over 100 Coast Guardsmen as well as four civilians. Those civilians would receive posthumous Purple Hearts in 2015 for their sacrifice.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

John C. Cullen.

(U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program)

Coasties interrupted German saboteurs landing on American soil

In June, 1942, a German U-boat surfaced off the coast of New York and dropped off a team of four saboteurs that made their way to the coast. Their goal was to cripple U.S. aluminum production and hydroelectric power production through a terror campaign, weakening the U.S. and hopefully coercing the U.S. population to vote against the war.

The endeavor was quickly foiled thanks to the Coast Guard beach patrol. Coast Guard Seaman 2nd Class John Cullen came upon the group changing into disguises in the sand dunes on the beach, and offered them shelter and food at the Coast Guard station. They refused, and Cullen quickly became suspicious of the group. He played along like he believed their story of illegal fishing, but then immediately contacted the FBI.

The FBI arrived after the saboteurs had left the beach, but they were able to recover the German’s buried supplies and launch an investigation that rounded up all four men before a single attack. It also allowed them to learn of a similar landing in Florida which resulted in four more arrests with no damage done.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

U.S. Coast Guard World War II recruiting poster

(U.S. National Archives and Records Center)

It hunted U-boats, especially near the U.S. coast

It was kept largely secret during the war, but both U.S. coasts actually came under heavy and sustained U-boat attack during World War II. Most of the attacks were subs hunting merchant vessels, but the Germans occasionally shelled towns as well. It was the Coast Guard’s job to hunt these boats, sometimes with Navy blimp support.

In fact, the U.S. actually reached deep into the bench and called up civilian sailors to help with the task of hunting subs, then put the Coast Guard in charge of them. The Coast Guard allowed the civilians to help look for enemy vessels, but then sent their own crews to hunt the enemy when they were found.

The civilian vessels and crews were often surprisingly good at the task, especially since many of them were wooden-hulled, sailing boats. German sonar couldn’t detect the sound of the sails like they would an engine, and they couldn’t bounce other signals off the wooden hulls, so they only knew one of the ships had spotted them when a Coast Guard hunter bore down on them.

Veterans

Veterans, Gold Star Families get free entrance to national parks, refuges, other public lands

Veterans and Gold Star Families will be granted free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other Federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior starting on Veterans Day this year and every day onward.

“With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Entrance fees for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for Veterans and Gold Star Families. They will have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing and climbing.

Many Department managed lands have direct connections to the American military, such as frontier forts, Cold War sites, battlefields, national cemeteries, and memorials. These special places pay tribute to our veterans and serve as reminders of their courage and sacrifice throughout the history of our nation, from Minuteman National Historic Park where colonists stood in defense of their rights, to Yellowstone National Park, which was protected from vandalism and poaching by the 1st U.S. Cavalry before the National Park Service was established, to Mount Rushmore where modern warriors attend reenlistment ceremonies.

Details on program

For purposes of this program, a Veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card

Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

The Interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

The Department also offers free entrance days for everyone throughout the year to mark days of celebration and commemoration including the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day, and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s how the US could respond to a California rebellion

The results of the last presidential election have brought national attention to a secessionist movement in California otherwise known as “Calexit.” Activists upset with the outcome are gathering signatures to place a secession referendum on the ballot in 2019.


While the probability of California seceding from the Union is remote, it is technically possible.

What if the movement ultimately gained enough traction to foment a rebellion in one of California’s most important and iconic cities? Here’s how the United States might try to take back the city and how insurgents might defend it.

Assuming the rebellion had broad-based popular support, the California National Guard would begin concentrating several units in and near San Francisco, where they would have the best chance of facing U.S. forces in the dense urban environment. In response, the Pentagon might deploy storied units like the 101st Airborne and 25th Infantry Divisions to San Francisco to seize and secure the city.

National Guard troops might consider establishing alliances of convenience with hackers, Chinese Special Forces, and local gangs like the Ghee Kung Tong, Neustra Familia, and rival elements of MS-13. Rigging the city’s multi-storied buildings and roadways with booby traps and IEDs, the rebels would dig in for a long siege.

Also Read: Here’s what would happen in a second US civil war

When U.S. forces make their push on the city, the 101st Airborne might conduct air assaults across the South Bay to seize and secure Highways 280 and 101, cutting off San Francisco’s southern supply route. Elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment would launch a raid on the San Francisco airport, safeguarding it for follow-on forces.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Ranger Staff Sgt. Joseph T. Trinh, of the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st Battalion, conducts stress fire operations for Ranger Rendezvous on Fort Benning, Ga., June 24, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Coty Kuhn)

Simultaneously, Delta Force commandos would secure nuclear material in the East Bay at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, likely encountering stiff resistance from local forces. Rogue hackers might us the attack to initiate a propaganda campaign, hinting at a possible radiation leak. The news of such a disaster would spur a flood of refugees to flee inland from Berkeley and Oakland, inundating follow-on U.S. forces and overwhelming hastily constructed refugee camps.

Further west, a SEAL team would work to disarm explosive charges set by Chinese frogmen on the foundations of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, before the 25th Infantry Division’s lightly armored Strykers could cross over.

Columns of Strykers surging across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, would turn northwest from the Bay Bridge. Streaming along the Embarcadaro, they would race to seize the high ground at Telegraph Hill, where Coit Tower offers a commanding view of the city. To the northwest, forces crossing the Golden Gate would quickly occupy the Presidio, establishing a tactical operations center there.

Choke Points

National Guard units would lie in wait until U.S. forces became channelized in the city. Then, they would attack, firing small arms and RPGs from office buildings and high rises, and detonating IEDs hidden beneath concrete along the main streets. National Guard M1A1 Abrams tanks, hiding in parking structures would ambush Strykers, littering the streets with mangled and twisted metal. When beleaguered American units call for air support, Longbow Apache helicopters would stumble into massive arrays of balloons released just before they passed over the city. The balloons would tangle in the helicopters’ rotors and cause the aircraft to sputter and crash.

While the insurgents would have the element of surprise, American forces would recover quickly, rapidly seizing key communications nodes and power stations to deny rebels a link to the outside world. As American forces extend their control deeper into the city, they would hit a wall of resistance in the Tenderloin as meth-fueled gangs ambush them from every conceivable alley and window with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and car bombs.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team take cover behind a riot control vehicle. (U.S. Army photo by: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)

To counter the chaos, U.S. forces would partition particularly restive parts of the city, walling them off with twelve-foot high, portable, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls or T-walls. At the same time, another battle would rage beneath the streets throughout the 28 subway miles of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

Within three weeks, the U.S. military would control two-thirds of the city, but dwindling food supplies would leave the civilian population increasingly desperate. Overflowing sewage and a swelling rat infestation would only make matters worse. This horrific environment would inspire a highly effective insurgent propaganda campaign, with hackers smuggling micro SD cards containing footage of alleged U.S. military atrocities and deteriorating conditions out of the city.

Soon, the U.S. military would be overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees, frantic to leave San Francisco. To prevent known criminals and insurgents from escaping the increasingly tightening cordon, soldiers would use tools like the Biometric Automated Toolset (BATS) to perform thumb and eye scans on every refugee. They would also confiscate all electronic devices to prevent insurgents from passing on critical intelligence information to other cells.

Yet some micro SD cards would make it through the U.S. military’s security checkpoints and end up on CNN. Terrifying images of rail-thin San Franciscans, bullet-riddled corpses of children, and rats the size of small dogs festering in refuse-strewn alleys would carpet-bomb the media circuit, making it increasingly difficult for U.S. forces to maintain a long-term occupation of the city.

While the U.S. victory over San Francisco would ultimately be assured, it would be a Pyrrhic one that would sully the U.S. military’s reputation. More importantly, it might have the unintentional impact of bolstering the resistance in the foothills and mountains to the east.

Award-winning author Sean Patrick Hazlett is an Army veteran living in the San Francisco Bay area. His short story, “Adramelech” appears in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 along with the work of four other veterans including, Larry Elmore, who illustrated the cover. You can read more about him at reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tillerson tackled these major issues in his South Asia trip

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tackled several of the world’s most sensitive issues during a whirlwind trip aimed at preventing Afghanistan from falling back into chaos, easing Kurdish-Iraqi tensions that could allow Islamic State to revive, and isolating Iran as much as possible.


Unsurprisingly, Tillerson was welcomed in Afghanistan and India, where President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to foster a growing partnership as part of his recently announced policy for the region. His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crackdown on extremist groups and eliminate their safehavens.

Those stops on the five-day, six-nation trip epitomized the diplomatic tightrope that Washington faces, along with the risks in dealing with them face to face. Likely mindful that insurgents attacked Kabul’s international airport hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited a month ago, the stops in Kabul and Afghanistan lasted just hours, and neither involved an overnight stay.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Bagram Airbase to meet with Tillerson, whose visit was not announced in advance, to discuss how to deal with the Taliban insurgency that has resulted in what US military officials have called a stalemate.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Faiz Mohammad Zaland, an Afghan analyst who attended a number of conferences with Taliban officials abroad, welcomed Tillerson’s proposal for Afghanistan to draw the Taliban into the peace process, as long as the group renounces terrorism and violent extremism.

“We’ve made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory,” Tillerson told a news conference Oct. 26. “Do you want your children and grandchildren fighting this same fight?Because that’s the way it’s going to be if you don’t find a different way to go forward.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

Akbar Agha, an ex-Taliban official, told VOA the Taliban want a change in the system of government and insist on a pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan at a time the US and its allies have been beefing up their presence.

In Islamabad, Tillerson was greeted by a low-level Foreign Ministry official and then taken to meet separately with the civilian government and the military, underscoring the difficulty of putting together a united policy when each side has different priorities. There has been strong speculation for years of ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and extremist groups, and the military’s primary focus is on tense relations with India.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thanks local police officers for their service before departing Islamabad. Photo from US State Department.

And while the US repeatedly has said it feels that having Pakistan play a positive role is key to success in Afghanistan, there are signs that Islamabad is hedging its bets by growing closer to China – which has undertaken mutually beneficial, multi-billion-dollar development projects in the country – and bolstering relations with Russia in case Washington were to cut back on aid.

Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the low-key welcome shouldn’t be seen as a slight, saying then-President Bill Clinton was given similar treatment when he visited in 2000.

“The meetings were important, the welcome was not,” Naqvi said.

Tillerson described his talks in Pakistan as “frank and candid.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
US Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“We probably listened 80 percent of the time and we talked 20 percent,” Tillerson said. “We put our expectations forward in no uncertain terms. We’re going to chart our course consistent with what Pakistan not just says they do, but what they actually do.”

The two sides reportedly exchanged lists of terrorists they want apprehended or eliminated, and they are seeking help in pursuing them.

Also Read: Russia, Pakistan join together in first-time anti-terrorism exercises

The reception for Tillerson was much warmer in India, which is clearly happy about the US plan for the country to play an enhanced role in Afghanistan – where it earlier stepped in to provide air transport of Afghan produce and other goods when Pakistan closed border crossings – and the rest of the region.

“He must be very tired, but the good part was that his last stop is a country that is a close friend,” said Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swarah. “It is said visiting a close friend’s place cures you of tiredness. I hope Secretary Tillerson is not feeling tired any more.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Prime Minister’s House in New Delhi, India on October 25, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

After wrapping up his first trip to the region, Tillerson said his goal had been to expand on Trump’s new policy and what role is envisioned for each country.

“What we’ve received in the region is enormously positive over the South Asian strategy,” he said. “People have said this is the first time we’ve seen a strategy.”

“I think many have said, yes, we’ve been fighting a war in Afghanistan for 16 years; when we’ve been fighting, it was 16 one-year strategies. There was never anything in mind as to how does this come to an end,” Tillerson said. “We now have to go execute.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants ‘Space Force’ to be its own military branch

While speaking to US Marines in San Diego on March 13, 2018, President Donald Trump suggested creating a branch of the military for space.


“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at Miramar Air Station. “We may even have a Space Force.”

“You know, I was saying it the other day cause we’re doing a tremendous amount of work in space,” Trump said. “I said ‘maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the space force.’ And I was not really serious, and then I said ‘what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.'”

“That could happen, that could be the big breaking story,” Trump said. “Look at all those people back there,” Trump said, pointing to the media in the background. “Look at them… Ohhhh, that fake news.”

Related: Trump’s strategy to prepare the US for power war with Russia and China

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
(Photo by garysan97/Flickr)

While Trump appears to have wandered into the issue in his speech, the idea is not new.

The Congressional Strategic Forces Subcommittee even proposed creating such a branch in July 2017, which they called Space Corps. But the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that passed in November 2017 actually banned it.

Also read: This is President Trump’s military wishlist for 2019

The proposed Space Corps would have fallen under the Air Force branch.

Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, however, said in February 2018 that he expects such a force to be built in three to five years, according to Defense News.

Supporters of the Space Corps have argued that it’s needed to counter Russia and China’s desire to build anti-satellite weaponry.

Articles

Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Engineers at Stanford University have created a coating of silver nanowire that retains up to 90 percent of the user’s body heat, allowing wearers to stay comfortable in lower temperatures and reducing visibility to enemy infrared.


This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison

“Let’s say you want to make your clothes reflect heat, you need metal,” Yi Cui, the lead scientist on the project, said in Popular Science. “But you’re not going to put metal on your body.”

The coating allows sweat to pass through it, so troops wouldn’t get soaked, and in extreme cold an electric current from a battery could raise the temperature of the silver and quickly warm the soldier. The downside to the electric current is that it would light up any infrared sensors the soldier was hiding from.

To apply the coating, researchers dip garments into a solution of silver. When it dries, it leaves behind extremely thin and flexible nanowires of the metal. It only takes about $10 to coat a garment with the silver, Benjamin Wiley, an assistant professor of chemistry at Duke University, told OZY.

The actual silver used is less than a gram and costs about 50 cents. The main focus of the research so far has been been for civilian use, sweaters that would reduce the need for inefficient heating of homes and offices in the winter. So, there’s a chance these fabrics will be available at the mall before they’re issued to troops. Cui estimated they would be on store racks by 2018 if there are no unforeseen issues.

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